Friday, September 20, 2019

Mendo DA Upset to Learn of Former EPD Officer's Past Dishonesty, Will Dismiss Cases that Require His Testimony

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 10:38 AM

Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster has grave concerns about the Willits Police Department’s hiring of Jacob Jones, having learned of sustained allegations of the officer’s dishonesty during his tenure with the Eureka Police Department.

In a scathing, incredulous 2,400-word letter to Willits Police Chief Scott Warnock, Eyster expresses dismay at Jones’ hiring despite the sustained allegations that he lied to superiors in an attempt to hide “defective or incompetent” police work while in Eureka last year and anger that Warnock didn’t inform him of Jones’ past, leaving Mendocino County’s top prosecutor to learn about them through an Aug. 29 article in the North Coast Journal (“Light in Dark Places”). In the letter, Eyster goes into detail to explain how the U.S. Supreme Court case of Brady v. Maryland requires prosecutors to turn over any exculpatory evidence they have in a case, which subsequent courts have determined includes any evidence of past instances of dishonesty by the investigating officers.

“Words cannot adequately express how disappointed I am that you failed to notify me or, for that matter, anybody in my office of the peace officer hiring of Jacob Jones despite Mr. Jones’ obviously Brady background,” Eyster writes. “Having personally reviewed the Brady materials provided to you by the Eureka Police Department, you surprisingly overlooked what was important therein and approved the hiring of this badly tainted former EPD officer as a Willits police officer. First, I would never have thought in a million years that it would be necessary for me to remind you that honesty and credibility have always been essential traits for a police officer.”

Jacob Jones is sworn in as a Willits police officer June 12. - FACEBOOK/WILLITS POLICE DEPARTMENT. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY JONATHAN WEBSTER.
  • Facebook/Willits Police Department. Photo illustration by Jonathan Webster.
  • Jacob Jones is sworn in as a Willits police officer June 12.
Eyster further writes that he is personally reviewing every criminal case in which his office planned to use Jones as a “necessary and material prosecution witness” with plans to dismiss them unless they can be prosecuted without Jones’ involvement.

Warnock responded to a Journal inquiry seeking a response to Eyster's letter and an update on Jones' work status and duties but declined to comment, saying it's a "personnel matter." Willits Human Resources analyst Karen Stevenson said Jones remains employed by the city, though he is presently “on vacation.”

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

McGuire: Judge's Tax Return Law Ruling 'Perplexing, Premature and Unneccesary'

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2019 at 4:12 PM

A federal judge today granted a temporary injunction to block California’s recently signed legislation that requires presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the state’s primary ballot.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. said a final ruling in the case would be coming in the next few days but there would be “irreparable harm without temporary relief.”

The Presidential Tax Transparency & Accountability Act was challenged within days of its July 30 signing by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who at the time said that “states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence.”

Judicial Watch, a self-described “conservative, non-partisan educational foundation” that “promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law,” was the first to sue. That action was quickly followed by President Donald Trump and his campaign and the Republican state and national parties, which filed two separate lawsuits.

North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire McGuire, who co-authored the legislation with Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, described England’s ruling as “perplexing, premature and not necessary.”

“We’re way out in front of any deadline required under the law and the irreparable harm argument is simply not apparent,” McGuire said in a statement released by his office. “I think the judge got this one wrong and a decision as important as this should not have been rushed or the law prematurely shut down.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Eureka, County Are Parties in Opioid Settlement Agreement

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 11:02 AM

Eureka and Humboldt County are parties to the tentative multi-billion-dollar settlement reached this week in a landmark lawsuit brought by thousands of municipal governments and more than two dozen states against Purdue Pharma, the company that created OxyContin.

The settlement — which still needs to be ratified by plaintiffs and approved by the judge — reportedly involves Purdue Pharma filing for bankruptcy protection, dissolving and emerging as a new company, the profits of which would be distributed among plaintiffs in the case. The deal also would reportedly see Purdue Pharma’s owners, the Sackler family, pay out $3 billion in cash over seven years but includes no admission of wrongdoing. According to NBC News, the entire settlement is valued at $10 billion to $12 billion.
The county of Humboldt, home to more opioid prescriptions than people, and the city of Eureka are parties to the tentative settlement reached with Purdue Pharma in the massive opioid lawsuit that includes more than 2,000 municipalities. - FLICKR
  • Flickr
  • The county of Humboldt, home to more opioid prescriptions than people, and the city of Eureka are parties to the tentative settlement reached with Purdue Pharma in the massive opioid lawsuit that includes more than 2,000 municipalities.
Eureka City Attorney Bob Black said the city is still awaiting details on the particulars of the settlement and how funds would be distributed, noting that the agreement will need to be approved by at least 75 percent of plaintiffs in the case to take effect.

That may prove a high bar, as some parties have already publicly criticized the settlement as inadequate.

“@purduepharma has provided an insultingly weak offer to the American people for the #OpioidEpidemic that they’ve fueled for decades,” Pensylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro tweeted yesterday. “It allows them to walk away billionaires and admit no wrongdoing. I don’t accept that.”

A sticking point in settlement negotiations has reportedly been how much of its personal fortunate the Sackler family would be included in a payout. The case had been scheduled for trial next month in Ohio.

In its complaints — filed by the firm Keller Rohrback — Eureka and the county alleged Purdue Pharma violated federal racketeering laws and constituted a public nuisance by minimizing addiction risks associated with OxyContin, which led to overprescribing and fueled the national opioid epidemic.

The Yurok Tribe also has a suit pending against Purude Pharma, though we don’t know if it, too, is included in the tentative settlement agreement, as an email to the tribe’s spokesperson has not yet been returned.

Confirming that Humboldt County is a party to the settlement, Spokesperson Sean Quincey, like Black, said the particular provisions of the agreement aren’t yet clear.

“The settlement means the county will likely receive an award of money to compensate us for the damage created by the opioid crisis but we do not yet have the details of the agreement,” he said.
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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

UPDATE: Republican Party, Trump Take on Golden State Over Tax Returns

Posted By on Tue, Aug 6, 2019 at 12:14 PM


Following in the footsteps of Judicial Watch, President Donald Trump and his campaign and the Republican state and national parties filed two separate lawsuits today over the tax return law recently signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Each case alleges California’s move to make releasing a candidate’s tax returns a prerequisite to being placed on the state’s primary ballot was unconstitutional.

"We will not allow California's Democrats to use the state's voters as pawns in their petty political vendettas to trample all over the Constitution," RNC National Committeewoman and Vice President of the Republican National Lawyers Association, Harmeet K. Dhillon said in a release. "This law is a cynical and illegal voter suppression scheme whose sole purpose is to deny California voters their Constitutionally protected right to vote for qualified candidates for president, and to suppress the Republican vote in California not just for president but also for all the down-ticket races, ballot measures and power grabs the Democrats have in store for the 2020 ballot."

State Sen. Mike McGuire, who co-authored Senate Bill 27, shot back at Trump and what his office deemed “a frivolous lawsuit against the state of California.”

“Releasing of tax returns has never been a big deal, up until now. All presidents have done it for 40 years,” McGuire said. “It comes as no surprise that President Trump would freak out at the prospect of presidential transparency and accountability, but he will need to get used to it. Welcome to the rule of law, Mr. President.”


Judicial Watch, a self-described “conservative, non-partisan educational foundation” that “promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law,” is suing the state of California over a law that requires presidential and gubernatorial candidates to show their personal taxes returns to get on the primary ballot.

The federal lawsuit comes just as the ink sets on Senate Bill 27, with Judicial Watch arguing the legislation adds requirements “beyond those allowed by the U.S. Constitution and impermissibly burdens a voters’ expressive constitutional and statutory rights.”

Gavin Newsom - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law July 30, stating that “these are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence.”

Co-penned by North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire McGuire — who  praised Newsom’s signing as a victory for transparency — and Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, presidential hopefuls and gubernatorial candidates must now produce “copies of every income tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years with the Secretary of State, at least 98 days prior to the corresponding primary election.”

Mike McGuire
  • Mike McGuire
In a release, Judicial Watch alleges S.B. 27 is political in nature and outside the bounds of California’s “legitimate constitutional role in administering and establishing procedures for conducting federal elections.”

The foundation points to concerns raised by former Gov. Jerry Brown when he vetoed similar legislation back in 2017.

“Today we require tax returns but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?" Brown wrote in his veto message.

Echoing those remarks (and quoting them), Judicial Watch says the precedent being set by the Golden State could have far-reaching repercussions.

“Using rationales similar to California’s, states might come to demand medical records, mental health records, sealed juvenile records, driving records, results of intelligence, aptitude, or personality tests, college applications, Amazon purchases, Google search histories, browsing histories or Facebook friends," the release states.

Ultimately, the foundation argues, the tax return policy boils down to a direct rebuke to President Donald Trump, who has refused to turn over his tax information in reversal of a tradition that dates back half a century.

“California politicians, in their zeal to attack President Trump, passed a law that also unconstitutionally victimizes California voters,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in the release. “It is an obvious legal issue that a state can’t amend the U.S. Constitution by adding qualifications in order to run for president. The courts can’t stop this abusive law fast enough.”

Read the full Judicial Watch release below:

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Brazen Gun Theft Suspect Pleads Guilty, Most Weapons Still Unaccounted for

Posted By on Sun, May 19, 2019 at 8:25 AM

One of the stolen guns was used in the shooting of a University Police Department officer in 2017. - FILE
  • File
  • One of the stolen guns was used in the shooting of a University Police Department officer in 2017.
The Eureka man with an outlaw name who was behind a brazen gun theft at Pacific Outfitters nearly four years ago was recently sentenced to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty to the crime in federal court.

Jesse James Marquez was 19 when he cut power lines to the sporting goods store in August of 2015 to dismantle the alarm before breaking in through a skylight and proceeding to make off with the trove of 55 handguns that had been stored in a cabinet. Two weeks, later he took off to Oregon.

Since then, only 17 of the weapons have been recovered, according to the Eureka Police Department, with most found during criminal investigations — several drug-related from Southern Humboldt to Oregon and even out east in Georgia.

One was brandished by Ervin Eugene Sweat Jr. when he nearly killed University Police Department officer Louis Altic, who was shot in the leg in September of 2017 after responding to the Arcata Plaza on reports of a fight involving an armed suspect. Sweat was killed when Altic and another officer returned fire.

“In addition to the prison term, Judge Breyer sentenced Marquez to a three-year term of supervised release and ordered Marquez to pay restitution to Pacific Outfitters in the amount of $56,600,” a Department of Justice press release states.

The brash crime was one of the main reasons then Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills proposed an ordinance — which he withdrew days later amid a public backlash — that would require gun owners and sellers within city limits to lock up their weapons when they weren’t home or a business was closed.

“People have the right to bear arms but that’s just the point — to bear arms. Not to leave them lying around unprotected,” Mills said at the time. “[The ordinance was] written specifically so if someone is home or at their business, they can have all the guns they want lying about, because they're in control of their firearms. It has nothing to do with ‘when somebody goes to bed at night, can they have a gun on their nightstand?’ Of course they can. This is America.”

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

County Counsel Suit Alleges Conspiracy in Legal Billings; Supes Approve $1.4M in Retro Payments, New Contract with Law Firm

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 2:21 PM

  • County of Humboldt
  • Jeffrey Blanck
The county’s head attorney has filed a civil lawsuit against two fellow top administrators, an outside attorney and her Bay Area-based law firm alleging they conspired against him when he tried to expose excessive billing practices.

According to Jefferey Blanck’s lawsuit, bills from Liebert Cassidy Whitmore “increased three-fold” from 2016 to 2018 — from $137,000 to $353,000 — due to Human Resources Director Lisa DeMatteo's practice of sending routine matters to the firm’s partner Suzanne Solomon, bypassing the county counsel’s office.

He gave as examples a more than $6,000 bill “to draft a simple termination letter” and $8,000 paid to handle an arbitration issue “over a $300 dispute.”

Blanck also alleges that County Administrative Officer Amy Nielsen allowed this to take place and that when he tried to bring those costs and an issue with the legitimacy of the firm’s contract to the board of supervisors, the defendants “orchestrated” his removal.

Blanck, who has been on paid administrative leave since March, is asking for an unspecified amount of damages in the legal action filed April 25, which states that he has suffered emotional distress and economic harm due to the defendants’ actions.

Meanwhile, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday retroactively approved $1.4 million in legal payments to Liebert Cassidy Whitmore dating back to 2008.  A staff report from DeMatteo’s office states that “due to administrative oversight” the county's agreement with the firm was never brought to the board but  instead was signed only by the former personnel director, although the services and payments continued for 11 years.

Passed without comment by the board as part of the consent agenda, the item also included a new contract — running from May 7 to June 30, 2020 — with a “maximum payable amount of $150,000” for services related to “labor negotiations, administrative proceedings and legal advice on special employment projects.”

According the 14-page listing of the firm’s $1.4 million in charges since 2008, the county has already paid Liebert Cassidy Whitmore nearly $200,000 this year.

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Dunaway Paroled 25 Years After Amber Slaughter Murder

Posted By on Sun, May 5, 2019 at 11:48 AM

Amber Slaughter with her grandfather. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Amber Slaughter with her grandfather.
Thomas Jerome Dunaway is a free man, released from prison some 25 years after participating in the execution-style murder of a 14-year-old Eureka girl.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Dunaway was paroled last month to the San Francisco area. While Dunaway had faced life in prison for the 1994 murder of Amber Slaughter on South Jetty, Francine Schulman told a parole board late last year she’d forgiven Dunaway for her daughter’s killing and wanted to see him released from prison. After extensively questioning Dunaway about the remorse he feels and what he’s done to change his life since entering prison as a teenager for a crime he committed while 17 and legally still a juvenile, the board deliberated for about 20 minutes before recommending he be paroled.

It was the second time the board had recommended Dunaway for parole. The first recommendation, made in 2017, was reversed by then Gov. Jerry Brown, who said Dunaway had remained violent through his early years in prison and didn’t express sufficient remorse for or insight into his actions. Current Gov. Gavin Newsom, however, declined to intervene.

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Judge Denies Placement of Sex Offender in Eureka

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 3:00 PM

A picture of hearing attendees from Watson's Facebook page. - EPD CHIEF STEVE WATSON
  • EPD Chief Steve Watson
  • A picture of hearing attendees from Watson's Facebook page.
Judge John Feeney today decided against approving plans to have a man deemed by the courts to be a sexually violent predator placed under supervised release in Eureka, according to media reports and a Facebook post by Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson.

The proposed placement would have had Joshua Cooley staying in a rotating set of motels, moving every four days or so, under the supervision of Liberty Healthcare.

In his post, Watson thanked the judge for listening to community concerns and noted that more than 50 people attended the hearing.

“Judge Feeney also indicated in his decision that he felt Cooley’s case presented extraordinary circumstances supporting his placement in another county upon his release from the state hospital (where D.A. Fleming argued he should remain and I agree),” Watson wrote. “A status review has been set for May 24 and a placement review for July 19.”

Feeney has made similar findings two previous time. He blocked Cooley’s release to Garberville last month and before that found that a rural Freshwater neighborhood was not a suitable placement.

There was also community opposition in both of those cases.

Cooley was committed to the hospital on his Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) designation in 2010 after serving prison time for sexually assaulting a minor. After an appeal, his petition for release was granted in December of 2016, with the search for a suitable placement site taking place over the last 20 months.

Read more about the SVP designation process in the Journal’s Aug. 20, 2015, story “Free and Afraid.”

Read the Facebook post by Chief Steve Watson below:

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Release of Sex Offender to Garberville Denied

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 2:31 PM

Humboldt County Courthouse - FILE
  • file
  • Humboldt County Courthouse
Multiple media outlets are reporting that Judge John Feeney today denied the placement of a man deemed by the courts to be a sexually violent predator for the second time in less than a year, this time to Garberville.

However, according to a Times-Standard article, Feeney did agree with his attorney’s argument that Joshua Cooley should be released but stayed his ruling until a suitable housing situation could be found.

According to the Redheaded Blackbelt, that could include rotating stays at Eureka motels. Another hearing has been set for May 5.

Feeney made a similar finding back in August of 2018, when he blocked Cooley’s release in a rural Freshwater neighborhood after an outcry from neighbors and opposition from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff William Honsal.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Judge Rules Mother of Stabbing Suspect Will Not Stand Trial

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 10:43 AM

Several media outlets are reporting that a Superior Court judge ruled today there was insufficient evidence for the mother of a teenage accused in the fatal stabbing of another boy to stand trial for murder.

According to the Times-Standard’s article, Judge Gregory Elvine-Kreis said the prosecution’s argument that Lorna Jean Leen “acted with ‘implied malice’ or ‘aided and abetted’” her son in the killing was not established.

Leen and her son, who is being tried as a juvenile, were arrested Aug. 10, the day after 16-year-old Brandon Brocious was found fatally stabbed in the Ocean View Cemetery.

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